Presents. Days off work. Mid-day cocktails. These are some of the greatest parts of the holiday season. Also, family time.
But sometimes you need to break up the intense at-home eggnog-ing and sports watching. If you have a younger cousin you’re obligated to take out, or parents to have New Year’s dinner with, we’ve got ideas. Here are some places to go out over the holidays with your family, broken up into two categories - spots for a casual hang and festive places for a celebratory dinner.
Spot For A Casual Hang
Your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but you still get together on the day, partly because you’re related to each other, but also because sitting at home watching The Santa Clause 2 by yourself is pretty depressing. This year is as good as any to honor the great American tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas Day, and if you’re going to do that, you should go to Sea Harbour. It’s one of the more formal dim sum spots in the SGV (they have white tablecloths and will bring out a little stool so your expensive handbag doesn’t have to be on the floor) and no matter where you live, traffic shouldn’t be a problem for once. The truffle shumai are fantastic, and even your brother who says he hates eggs will be into the salt egg yolk buns.
It’s not that you hate the dog sweater your great-uncle gave you, it’s just that you don’t have a dog. You also promised Mom some “quality time” over the holidays, so it’s time to combine activities. Before you brave The Grove in search of refunds for things you’ll never use, have breakfast at Joan’s On Third. This West 3rd St. legend is a little less chaotic in the mornings, and happens to be home to a very good breakfast sandwich. Plus, Mom will probably see an early ’90s celebrity drinking coffee and not eating anything, and so won’t mind when you admit that you’ll be returning the saucepan set you definitely won’t ever use.
You really like your cousin Matt, but he also just turned 21 in November and he drinks like it. He also just asked you if you want to go out tonight. Under no circumstance are you downing Fireball shots all night along Main Street, so go to Highland Park Bowl instead. The 1920’s bowling alley was completely redone a few years ago and is one of our favorite places to drink on the Eastside. Their cocktails are probably the best cocktails served inside a bowling alley in the world, and their pizza-heavy menu is pretty great too. And in case you (or your cousin Matt) were wondering, bowling is still very fun.
Your uncle who goes on 10 cruises a year and wears an eyepatch nobody talks about is in town, and after two slices of ham, he whisper-growled, “But where are we going to get some real food this week?” Crawford’s is where. Grab all the fun cousins, and take him to this dive bar and fried chicken joint in Historic Filipinotown. Order some beers and a few baskets of hot chicken, and then watch as Uncle Marvin quickly bests the top score on Buck Hunter.
Not only are your parents in LA for the holidays, but also both sets of grandparents, and some other people who are called cousins but possibly not really related to you. Getting all those people to agree on anything is basically impossible, but the exception might just be El Coyote. This Mexican spot on Beverly will satisfy those who want to eat burritos because they’re in LA, those who won’t go anywhere that doesn’t have Christmas decorations, and will serve you enough margaritas to get you through the rest of the week.
“I’m laying low this year for New Year’s Eve.” Remember when you said that? But here you are on New Year’s Day, starfished on your bed, your mouth a desert, and that bottle of Pedialyte in the refrigerator basically on the other side of the ocean. Go soak up that $11 bottle of champagne that’s still in your stomach at Salt’s Cure, one of the most reliable brunches in the city. You’re going to want their 2x2x2 (2 eggs, 2 sausage patties, and 2 strips of bacon), the burger, and their life-altering griddlecakes.
Festive Places For A Celebratory Dinner
Lawry’s is a fun place any day of the year. It looks like a cruise ship and one of their most famous dishes is a “spinning” salad that’s assembled tableside, after all. But over the holidays, Lawry’s really comes into its own. Not only is every surface of this enormous Beverly Hills restaurant covered in decorations, but there are groups of carolers who’ll come to your table and fulfill your Christmas song requests. There are few things Dad will appreciate more than eating prime rib to the tune of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
Both your sister and your brother made it home for the holidays this year (don’t remind Mom about Tom’s choice to opt for a full moon party in Thailand in 2016 instead), and no one knows when and if that’s going to happen ever again. There’s no better restaurant in Los Angeles to celebrate the sibling eclipse than The NoMad. This art deco bank-turned-hotel in DTLA is filled with velvet furniture, and just walking in will feel like a celebration - a feeling that will only increase when you convince the table to order a large-format cocktail to share. Go all-in on the truffle-stuffed roast chicken, and maybe big family get-togethers won’t be such a rare occurrence.
If your local Target has run out of tinsel, we have a hunch about where it all might have gone: Rao’s. The Hollywood location of this classic NYC Italian spot spends December looking like an elf threw up inside of it, so your Christmas sweater-knitting grandfather is going to be pretty happy. Rao’s is also a great place to come when your family is full of picky eaters - you’ll find every red-sauce standard on the menu, and if someone doesn’t like the meatballs, feel free to eject them from the table.
Your Aunt Roberta is in town, and she wants to take you to a nice lunch. And by that, she means a place where she can complain about how your mom gifted her a Weight Watcher’s subscription last year and never apologized. Spago is your spot. The classic Beverly Hills restaurant is a complete scene, but the food is very good, the waitstaff makes you feel like you have an Academy Award, and the big space is filled with everyone talking sh*t. Order the off-menu items: the tuna tartare cones, the salmon pizza, and the schnitzel.
Absolutely no one in your family wants to get dressed up and go to a stuffy dinner for New Year’s Eve this year. But you also have a prepaid open bar starting at 10pm with your friends, and you need some sustenance beforehand. Tam O’Shanter in Los Feliz is one of the oldest restaurants in the city, and while it’s now owned by the same people as Lawry’s and has a similar menu, here the aesthetic reads more somewhere between medieval drinking tavern and Snow White’s country home. But for however bizarre and over-the-top the place is, the prime rib is still damn good and the waitstaff is set on making sure you have an excellent time.
It’s a true Christmas miracle: your divorced parents have agreed to be in the same room for the first time in 15 years. You’re definitely not letting that happen in your apartment (where they will inevitably debate who really deserved custody of the cat). You need a public place where alcohol is readily available. 71Above is a restaurant and bar on top of one of LA’s tallest buildings where you can all get kinda dressed up and drink some very good cocktails. Plus, you can discuss the incredible views of the city, rather than watching your parents interrogate each other about their new partners.